Tuesday, January 03, 2006

More BBC stuff

Last Thursday Caroline Hawley, Orla Guerin’s replacement in Jerusalem, was on Radio Five Live’s Simon Mayo show to talk about her time as the BBC’s Iraq correspondent.

She started off with a bit of background -
Caroline Hawley: Basically we had this accommodation block where we stayed across the road from the office.

Phil Williams (in for Simon Mayo): And what other western journalists were with you? Who else was in the block?

Caroline Hawley: In our area we had Reuters, and the New York Times was round the corner.
Why am I not surprised to hear about this cosy little coalition of the whinging? And why does the term groupthink spring to mind?

More highlights -
Caroline Hawley: You know the Americans have embarked on - I don’t know how to describe it - such an erm, uh, such a strange adventure there that you just wonder how it’s all going to turn out. And I have to say it’s hard to be that optimistic.
Especially if you refuse to try.
Phil Williams: Dr Hemi Bhatt sent an email for you from Southampton and says, “I just want to say that Caroline is a credit to the BBC and journalism. Her reports through this sorry saga which is the Iraq debacle have been brilliantly informative and have given us all an insight into what happens when a superpower barges into an Arab country. Thank you Caroline.”

Caroline Hawley: That’s very nice of him.
If you oppose the war, Hawley is “brilliantly informative”.
Phone caller Talib (?): Have you ever come under pressure from intelligence agencies, say the Americans, prior to the war not to so much find out the truth about things but to, if you like, find stories with angles in order to justify things? In other words, if you like, if I’m kinda speaking in main terms, to help fabricate their stories if you like.

Phil Williams: Have you ever been encouraged to put a bit of spin on things I think is what Talib is saying.

Talib: Thank you very much, yes.

Caroline Hawley
: (Laughs) Yes. I think we were all encouraged to put spin on things. I mean I remember just after the war the coalition was incredibly critical of our reporting and I was accused of being able to smell sewage in a bed of roses. Well we all know that Iraq was not a bed of roses and basically if you weren’t in the palaces, Saddam’s palaces, that the coalition was based in you know you could smell the sewage. But the American military is frequently putting out statements that they want us to report, to report on projects that they’re doing, kind of schools that they’re doing, that they’re rebuilding and that kind of thing, and certainly I think - particularly just after the war there was a big effort, and I think there still is, to try to get journalists to say that things are going well there...

Phil Williams (reading an email from John in Horsham): “Can you ask why is it the BBC and other UK media always look at the negative of the Iraq war whilst Fox News at least looks at some of the positives?”

Caroline Hawley: I mean frankly there are not that many positives…
Not even the elections? Not even “the schools that they’re doing, that they’re rebuilding” that you’ve only just mentioned, Caroline? Oh I was forgetting, those things are tainted by American hands aren’t they? Wouldn’t do to report on “that kind of thing”.
Caroline Hawley: …I would say that the negatives for most Iraqis outweigh the positives. I mean you can, of course - there are things now you can do, there are bigger salaries now for civil servants, you can speak openly without fear, but for many Iraqis all of that is overshadowed by the fear of the violence, the fear for their own lives.
Ironic that an employee of the state-funded BBC should put ‘bigger salaries for civil servants’ before ‘speak openly without fear'. I’m not denying that life can be frightening for Iraqis, nor that Hawley herself is brave for doing what she does. However, I think it’s pretty clear what her prejudices are. Look out Israel.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing.
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7:28 pm  

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